In 1988 the MCPC began investigating the loss of native plant and wildlife species in natural areas under its stewardship and found that the areas of highest degradation had high deer populations.
The MCPC formed a nine member Wildlife Advisory Committee. Members represented a broad spectrum of interests including those of the animal rights community, the agricultural community, local municipalities, sportsmen, and natural resource managers.
The Committee examined deer population management options available for implementation throughout the park system including hunting, fencing, deer-resistant landscaping options, immunocontraception, trap and transfer, and controlled hunting.
The Committee conducted 14 meetings that were open to the public to assess any concerns and input they might have.
The Committee issued a report of their findings in November 1989. The report outlined procedures that should be followed if the MCPC decided to implement a trial controlled hunting program.
The First Controlled Hunts
The MCPC's first controlled hunting program took place in Black River County Park in 1991-92.
In response to the deteriorating environmental quality of Lewis Morris County Park, the Wildlife Advisory Committee was reconvened in 1994 to review the condition of the forest and deer population in Lewis Morris County Park.
The Committee issued a second report to the MCPC in July 1994 with its recommendations for a trial controlled hunting program in Lewis Morris County Park.
A controlled hunting program was implemented in Lewis Morris County Park in 1996-1997.
The MCPC conducted a trial immunocontraception program at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum from 1997 through 2000 in cooperation with the Humane Society of the United States.
The results found contraception to be an ineffective and inefficient means to control the deer population within the park system due primarily to the difficulty of annually locating previously tagged deer for the mandatory booster shot of contraceptive drugs.
Expansion of the Hunting Program
The hunting program was expanded in 1999-2000 to include Mahlon Dickerson Reservation.
Since that time, controlled hunts have been held in 18 Morris County parks with parks being added and removed each year in response to assessments of deer harvest results, deer density observations, impacts to forest health, and consideration of other park users.